- - Thursday, March 19, 2015

Eddie Trunk is the unlikely king of the metalheads. As host of VH1 Classic’s “That Metal Show,” he presides over an army of viewers with his regular-guy looks, encyclopedic knowledge and true fan’s perspective of all things hard rock. Every week for the past seven years, he has interviewed a who’s who of heavy metal luminaries with a real sense of wonder and awe.

Mr. Trunk sat down to reflect on the show’s long run and his continued passion for head-banging rock ‘n’ roll.

Question: Has “That Metal Show” really been on for 14 seasons?

Answer: Yeah, believe it or not, it has. They’re short seasons. I prefer to look at it more as years versus seasons, because that is a more accurate representation of how long we’ve been on — 14 seasons over the course of seven years. We’ve been lucky. We’re the little show that could. We built a great following with a very passionate audience that has been there for us. We took a year off between this season and last season and wondered if the people would remember us and still care.

Fortunately, the statistics show that they do. We are grateful to our audience. They keep this thing alive.

Q: How did “That Metal Show” start?

A: I worked for VH1 Classic as an on-camera host and interviewer for six years prior to “That Metal Show.” I introduced videos and interviewed every style of artist from Carly Simon to Robert Plant.

Around 2008, VH1 finally got tired of hearing me say, “I want to do a show my way. Let me bring in some friends and do this.” It’s become the flagship show for the channel, which is remarkable.

Q: What do you think is the secret to the success?

A: I think people know that we are truly fans first and foremost. We fill a void for that 30- to 50-year-old guy who still loves this music, still loves these bands. But they have a family and stuff and don’t get to go out to shows and keep up with stuff as much as they once did.

For them, the show is kind of an escape and [a way to] reconnect into the past. Being on a network that is properly suited for what we do, a music channel, works. There is nothing like it on TV. There really hasn’t been since “Headbangers Ball” was on MTV over 20 years ago.

Q: How did Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine become your co-hosts?

A: They were listeners of my radio show, and they would hang out at the radio studio after their comedy gigs. We became friends. When I was getting ready to do the pilot, VH1 said to me, “We want some guys to also hang out with you and bust balls.” I said, “I’ve got just the guys.”

Q: Who has been your favorite guest so far?

A: The guys I always find to be the best are the guys who don’t take it all too seriously — guys you can have fun with and talk about every aspect of their career [and] you don’t have to walk on eggshells. To me, those are the best guests.

Guys like that are certainly Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony. They have been on with us a couple of times and are just a riot. David Coverdale is always fun. [Rob] Halford is always great. Lars Ulrich, who we’ve had on twice, is great. Brian Johnson of AC/DC was amazing. Ted Nugent, love him or hate him, was amazing. Completely open and fun. He let it fly.

People who aren’t wound too tight and get into the spirit of what we are doing are the best guests.

Q: Do you have a wish list of dream guests who have yet to do the show?

A: Certainly Eddie Van Halen is 1A on that list. We know Eddie watches the show. Last season, he sent us a guitar rig that we have on our set. But Van Halen is a notoriously press-shy band and rarely does anything with anybody. We have asked countless times, but had no luck.

I was very close to getting Jimmy Page on. And I still may. But Jimmy is kind of turned off from the fact that the word “metal” is in the name of the show — even though after a hundred episodes we have evolved into a rock show. We’ve had everyone from Foreigner to Leslie West [from Mountain] and Mark Farner [from Grand Funk Railroad] on. We’ve got a pretty wide net. But Jimmy doesn’t know that. He doesn’t watch the show. He lives in England.

Q: There are three obvious guests that are missing: Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from Kiss.

A: The fans would love to see them. Ozzy won’t do it because of some bias against us. That means Sharon. And Gene and Paul.

Q: You’ve been pretty vocal, and rightfully so, about Kiss putting other guys in Ace [Frehley] and Peter [Criss’] makeup and pretending it doesn’t matter.

A: The sad thing about that is so many people tell me privately they feel the same way. But so few say it publicly. For the few of us that do, it gets magnified, blown up and distorted, taken out of context, and that’s unfortunate. If those guys only knew how many people I talked to privately, even the bands they have toured with, who have told me they feel the same way.

Q: The hard-core fans may know the difference, but don’t you think they are tricking the casual fans?

A: The casual fans don’t know. The hard-core fans know Ace hasn’t been in the band for a long time.

One of the last times I saw Kiss, Peter was in; Ace was not. The next day I was at the hotel pool in the hot tub and some guys came in and they had Kiss T-shirts. They were talking about how cool it was to see the show the night before to see Ace back in the band. I said, “That’s not Ace.” We got into an argument. That was 10 years ago, and by now most people probably know it’s not him. Maybe in the beginning it was a thing to push that agenda. If people are cool with it, that’s fine, just not for me. It doesn’t sit right with me as a fan.

What I find unfortunate is that instead of coming on and having a healthy discussion and debate about that, they just kind of run from that. Shut you out and ignore that fact that 98 percent of the things I’ve said and done about Kiss have been positive. The worst part is their fans are the ones watching our show. We’ve had more Kiss T-shirt-wearing fans in our studio audience than any other band. We talk more about Kiss in our top fives than any other band. They always talk about pleasing their fans. Their fans want to see them on a show like ours. What is there to be so afraid of? We are huge Kiss fans. I would love to have a healthy debate and discussion with Gene and Paul but can’t get water from a stone. I’m thankful for the guests who get us and do come on

Q: Any guests you regret having on the show?

A: Never that I regretted [but] interviews I wish I could redo. One is certainly Axl Rose, because there were some extenuating circumstances there. We went to Miami to get that and waited 14 hours for him to come and sit down with us. There were a variety of different reasons why it took that long. I would love to have another run with Axl where I’m awake. [laughs]

I’ve always been a big Marilyn Manson fan. We’ve had him on the show twice, and both times he was kind of “impaired,” let’s say. I would love to get a real in-depth interview with Manson about his music and his career when he’s kind of more together.

Q: How many more seasons do you think TMS will go?

A: That is up to the network. They make all the decisions as to how often we do it and how long we do it. If it is up to me, I hope it goes for 20 more years at least. The fact that it has gone seven years and counting is amazing. If it was up to me we would do the show weekly, every day, for 50 weeks straight.

Q: You and your co-hosts are hitting the road, yes?

A: We have been doing our own live stand-up shows on the road. Those are fun.

Q: What was the first metal album you bought?

A: The first album I bought myself was Kiss’ “Destroyer.” That album was a life-changer. It was 1976, and I was about 12. I remember dropping the needle on the LP for the first time and staring at the cover. Kiss became my obsession. After a while I had to acknowledge there was more than just Kiss. I discovered Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Van Halen, AC/DC and more.

Q: As a metal fan, which band would you most like to see reunite?

A: I’m asked constantly about the original Guns [‘N Roses] reuniting. I think that would be pretty epic if it were to happen.

Me personally? I’m a huge fan of UFO, as many people know. I love what they do now with Vinnie Moore, but I would love to see the lineup of UFO that did “Strangers in the Night” get back together. They did it back in the mid-‘90s. It would only require two members coming back in — Michael Schenker and Pete Way. With all due respect to what they do now, it would be just awesome to get one more taste of that lineup and band.

In a fantasy situation I would love to see [Led] Zeppelin. I’d love to see Thin Lizzy. But we all know those original reunions can’t happen.

Q: Heavy metal is supposed to be about youthful rebellion. How can you, as a dad and an older guy, still be into metal?

A: It’s all I know. There is a loyalty that doesn’t exist in most other sorts of music.

As people get older, their priorities change. They have kids. They are not going to go out to a club on a Wednesday night and see a band. I think that is part of a void that “That Metal Show” fills. It is a way for these people to reconnect with their pasts, if even just for an hour on Saturday night.

If it’s in your blood and you love the sound of it, hopefully it is something that stays with you forever. For me, I’m still as revved up to go to a great show or listen to a new album as I was when I was a teenager.

Q: I know you are active in hosting Ronnie James Dio events. Is preserving his legacy important to you?

A: It really is. Ronnie and I were very close. His wife, Wendy, has told me over the years that I was one of the people in the press he really enjoyed talking and hanging out with. I do miss him and think of him all the time. It was very hard for me, and obviously all his fans, when he passed away.

Still one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had was five years ago when Ronnie passed away. Wendy reached out to me and asked me to come to LA and help host some of the ceremonies. What I didn’t know was that I was going to be hosting the entire public memorial at Forrest Lawn Cemetery. I stood up there for four hours with his casket at my feet. In the past five years, I’ve done what I can to not only keep Ronnie’s music alive — which is easy because he was in so many great bands — but also to keep his memory alive as the person he was. Because he was one of my favorite people.

“That Metal Show” live will be at the World Cafe Live @ The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday. “That Metal Show” airs on VH1 Classic Saturdays at 9 p.m.

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